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This post originally appeared in the National Journal Energy & Environment Expert Blog. The question was, “Where Can Government Energy R&D Have Most Impact?”

Innovation in breakthrough energy technologies is notoriously challenging, despite having potentially large rewards. Individual innovations are embedded in larger systems where change is very hard. These innovations often carry significant capital costs to demonstrate, commercialize, or reach economies of scale. Unlike the latest cell phone, consumers are often unwilling to pay more for a new energy innovation, especially when the rewards are in the future.

This piece originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

In his annual State of the Union address, President Obama declared: “I will not walk away from clean energy.”

His words were a sharp rebuttal to critics harping on the Solyndra bankruptcy and others making dire predictions about the downfall of the renewable energy industry.

So, who is right? Will 2012 be a breakthrough year for renewable, or will it collapse?

This post originally appeared on the website of the Zero Emissions Resource Organization (ZERO) on December 16, 2011. ZERO is a partner in the Open Climate Network.

The European Commission has announced the adoption of its Energy Roadmap 2050, which explores the challenges of decarbonising the European Union while ensuring security of energy supply and economic competitiveness.

The roadmap’s analysis concludes that decarbonisation of the energy system is "technically and economically feasible" and that energy efficiency and renewables are a critical part of the mix. Its analysis is based on scenarios created by combining, in different ways, the four main decarbonisation routes – namely, energy efficiency, renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage (CCS).

Written with analysis from Athena Ballesteros, Louise Brown, Florence Daviet, Crystal Davis, Aarjan Dixit, Kelly Levin, Heather McGray, Remi Moncel, Clifford Polycarp, Kirsten Stasio, Fred Stolle, and Lutz Weischer

Jennifer Morgan, Edward Cameron, and our team of climate experts look back on the key decisions from Durban and give a first take on their implications for global efforts to tackle climate change.

As weary negotiators return home from the marathon United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) talks in Durban, South Africa, opinion is divided on the deal that was struck.

Some believe the package – consisting of a new “Durban Platform” to negotiate the long-term future of the regime, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and an array of decisions designed to implement the Cancun agreements – represents a significant step forward and cause for hope. Others are more cautious, viewing these outputs as insufficient in ambition, content, and timing to tackle the far-reaching threat of climate change.

In the United States, there is a heated debate about how much government should support renewable energy innovation. While you won’t find anyone who says they don’t value ‘innovation’, the U.S. federal investment in energy innovation across both fossil and renewable technology is still anemic, badly trailing China and only about one third of the amount recommended by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That’s unfortunate, because there are compelling reasons to accelerate innovation in the energy sector, and specifically in renewable energy.

Part 1: Barriers to Renewable Energy in South Africa

This is the first post in a two part series on renewable energy policy developments in South Africa.

Through the Open Climate Network, Idasa and partner organizations are examining the legal and institutional framework for key policies that will influence South Africa’s progress towards meeting its global climate change commitments. One such policy is the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT), drafted in 2009 to help South Africa increase the amount of electricity generated by renewable sources to 10,000 GWh by 2013.

This piece was written with Pablo Torres, Intern at the World Resources Institute.

During Climate Week 2011, business, government, non-profit, and civil society leaders from around the world are convening in New York City to drive a ‘clean energy revolution’. Not surprisingly, innovation in clean technologies is a common theme among many of the events.

In most models of a low-carbon future, innovation is assumed to occur and to reduce costs over time.[^1] There has been less focus on how to ensure this innovation takes place and is most effective. That is the focus of WRI’s new working paper, Two Degrees of Innovation: How to Seize the Opportunities in Low-Carbon Power.


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